Born: Established: 1872 Waterloo, South Sydney area, Sydney Southern Suburbs, Sydney, ; Died: Ceased: Dec 1929 Mentone, Mentone - Seaford area, Melbourne South East, Melbourne, Victoria,
1. JACK KEARNS'S PERFORMANCE STYLE:
1.1. McKISSON AND KEARNS: During the early part of their career, McKisson and Kearns's act involved a burlesque aerial trapeze act in addition to knock-about (tumbling) comedy and singing. A favourite theme appears to have been Irish knock-about comedy. Among their early specialties were 'Indian Life' (1893), 'The Floor Gave Way' (1895-1898), 'Silence and Fun' (1895), 'Sunny Southern County' (1897), and 'In Darkest Africa' (1897/1898 - possibly aka 'Wildest Africa' and/or 'African Revels').
Although McKisson and Kearns were frequently described as either a 'song and dance team' or simply 'the two knockabouts' during their career, Kearns recalls in 1913 that it took him some seven or eight years before he began to include singing into his performances [see Historical Notes section below for further clarification]. While Kearns's account suggests that Albert McKisson must have sung the musical numbers during their act, it is equally feasible that Kearns contributed to the songs with lines of spoken patter or retorts.
The following quotations comprise a selection of comments published on McKisson and Kearns during their career together:
1.2. SOLO CAREER:
Jack Kearns's lack of ability as a singer (in direct contrast to his brilliance as a comedian) may have endeared him to audiences during his solo career. By the early 1900s, his stage act certainly revolved around a combination of comedy and singing. One of his most frequently performed numbers around this period is said to have been the comic song 'For the Rent.' The right of performance to this number had apparently been given to him by Fred Curren, and Kearns later passed it on to Tom Dawson (ca. 1908), with the latter also scoring much success with it over a period of some five years or more.
By 1914, Kearns was writing much of his own comic material, including songs. One of his more popular numbers from that period was reportedly 'One Knocker to Another' (a collaboration with Jimmy Craydon ). Its first known performance was at the Princess Theatre in late September/early October. Another popular success was 'I Think I'd Better Shift this Scene,' also first performed at the Princess Theatre in 1914. One of his lines from this song (which Beaumont Smith later included in the musical comedy Stop Your Nonsense) was 'I'm a scene-shifter by trade and a beer-sinker by birth' (Theatre Magazine September 1915, p.11).
The following quotations comprise a selection of comments published throughout Jack Kearns' career:
2. HISTORICAL NOTES AND CORRECTIONS:
2.1. In recalling his early career, Kearns indicates that he had been in the 'business' some seven or eight years [before] he began to include singing into his performances. This had apparently been forced upon him the first time he appeared on stage in an endman role: 'One night I went on the corner through an endman being away. I had to try a song. Others encouraged me, with the result that I followed up singing from that time. Singing is much easier than acrobatic-work; and there is more money in it.' The interviewer makes a light-hearted response to this insight, however, proposing that there are some who 'have known Mr Kearns for seventeen or eighteen years, and have not yet made the discovery that he can sing' (Theatre Magazine April 1913, p.33).
When singing became a part of the McKisson and Kearns act is unclear, as several sources contradict Kearns's recall. A review published in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1895 records, for example, that they performed an 'acrobatic duet, '"You'll have to Guess"' (4 November 1895, p.3), while a review in the same paper two years earlier indicates that the pair were taking on endman duties during a season with Delohery, Craydon and Holland at the Alhambra Theatre, Sydney (24 July 1893, n. pag.). Their billing in 1892 also records the pair as performing 'songs and dances' (Age 9 April 1892, p.10). While it is possible that Kearns's non-singing career occurred during his time as an amateur (pre-1890), this would suggest that he began appearing on stage around 1883-1884 (aged approximately 12).
2.2. It has not yet been established when McKisson and Kearns actually parted ways, although several sources indicate that this must have occurred between 1901 and 1904. In a column titled 'Twenty Years Ago' (published in Everyone's in 1921), the act is described as 'the greatest comedy knockabout artists in Australia - and elsewhere for that matter.' Some three years later, Everyone's further claims that McKisson and Kearns's partnership - 'the greatest knockabout turn of the last century' - had lasted 'nearly a score of years' (24 November 1924, p.36). This last record suggests that 1901 may be closer to the mark.
2.3. Seemingly contradicting Isadore Brodsky's memory of Jack Kearns as Mr Tambo (see above) is an advertisement published in the Brisbane Courier in 1897, which indicates that Kearns was one half of a double Bones team (with Mr F. Harley). Albert McKisson and Tommy Hudson played the Mr Tambo roles (ctd. 17 July 1897, p.2). A Theatre Magazine review from 1918 also indicates that Kearns was engaged as the 'Bones' endman for a minstrel revival at the Sydney Opera House (December 1918, p.32). Although endmen tended to specialise as either Tambo or Bones throughout their career, it is possible that Kearns may have switched roles later in his career.
2.4. In 1915, 'The Month in Vaudeville' editor X-Ray included Kearns among a select group of Australian performers who, X-Ray claimed, were the equal of, if not better than, any overseas act. 'Imported artists are not in it with Australians in long runs. For example, where is there an American or English act that could like Tommy Armstrong, Vaude and Verne, the Driscolls, Jack Kearns and Ernest Pitcher - to name only a few - go on playing in Australia from year's end to year's end? It is nothing for some of these to play a fifteen, twenty or twenty-five weeks' engagement at the one house. Even at the end of such a season they more often than not are going as successfully as many an imported act that happens to be opening in their closing bill' (Theatre Magazine September 1915, p.49). Further evidence supporting this claim includes
3. IDA TAUCHERT (aka IDA ROSSLYN) and VERA KEARNS:
3.1. IDA TAUCHERT: The elder sister of Arthur Tauchert (the 'Sentimental Bloke'), Ida M. Tauchert was born in Sydney in 1875 to Frederick and Nora Tauchert. She made her first appearance with Cottier's Minstrels in June 1886 at age 11, as a 'the juvenile serio-comic artist' (Sydney Morning Herald 26 June 1886, p.2). By the end of the decade, she was being billed by Dan Tracey as 'Australia's champion lady dancer and singer.' Tauchert is believed to have been employed by Tracy between ca. 1888 and 1893. At one stage during this engagement (ca. 1892), she worked in partnership with fellow singer/dancer Anetta Bodin. An 1898 West Australian review of the Harry Rickards Tivoli season at Perth's Cremorne Theatre sums up a commonly held view of Tauchert's performance style when it records that 'Miss Ida Rosslyn, as the soubrette serio-comic artiste of the company, enforces a claim to the favours of the audience by her frequent presentations of new turns. The coon song "Whistling Gal" rendered by her on Saturday night is her latest success. The song, accompanied by whistling effects from the wings, was followed by a neat step dance, one of Miss Rosslyn's specialties, and the lady could not escape an encore' (25 July 1898, p.2).
In later years, Tauchert performed largely as a vaudeville soubrette, appeared in comedy sketches with her husband, and eventually undertook principal boy roles in a number of pantomimes. In addition to her five or more years with Harry Rickards and the Tommy Hudson Surprise Party tours, Tauchert also worked for Percy Dix's company in New Zealand and Australia. The Theatre Magazine reports, too, that she appeared in several dramatic roles, including that of Cissy Denver opposite George S. Titheidge (Wilfred Denver) in The Silver King (ctd. April 1913, p.33).
3.2. VERA KEARNS: Born in Sydney in 1894, Vera Kearns spent much of her childhood touring the variety circuits of Australia, New Zealand, and the East with her parents. She first appeared on the stage as an infant, and later progressed to song and dance specialties and eventually comedy.
In 1917, Kearns married New Zealand jockey Ashley Reed, and effectively retired from performing. Although they initially intended living in New Zealand, the pair soon returned to Australia and settled in Melbourne. They had at least one child, a son named Jack.
The following list comprises articles, pars, and reports relating to Jack Kearns, McKisson and Kearns, Ida Tauchert/Rosslyn, and Vera Kearns that are not given individual entries in this database. All entries are for Jack Kearns unless otherwise noted.